How to drive safely with children in the car

As a parent, the safety of your child will be your number one priority. If you could wrap them up in cotton wool you would, but we’re sure they’d have something to say about that...
In the car, you have an extra responsibility for your child’s safety.

Many parents will agree that having a baby or child in one of the seats completely alters their approach to driving – for instance, it makes them think more carefully before pulling certain manoeuvres.

Safety remains front of their mind at all times.
Maybe you’ve learned a lesson or two about safe driving following a motoring conviction. It’s given you a wake-up call and now your child has given you extra motivation to improve your driving habits.

If you’ve been committed of a driving offence in the past, you might find it difficult finding insurance for a reasonable price – and that’s where you need the Insurance Factory.
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Now let’s take a look at some of the things parents, grandparents or in fact anyone driving with children can do to make their journeys that little bit safer.

Child seats: know the law

Are you up to speed with the law around child seats? As the Gov.UK website explains, children must use a child car seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm tall – whichever comes first.
You can buy a seat based either on your child’s height or weight. Height-based seats are called ‘i-Size’ seats and need to be rear-facing until your child is over 15 months – at which point they can be put in a forward-facing seat.
Weight-based seats are categorised into different groups (0 to 3) and you may be able to choose from more than one seat type for your child’s weight.

The full table can be found on the Gov.UK website – it’s your duty to make sure the seat is appropriate for your child prior to buying and installing it in your car.
You also need to make sure that the seat you pick is EU-approved. Look out for a label with a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘R129’ for height-based seats, and a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘ECE R44’ for seats based on weight.

Refresh your driving knowledge

It’s easy to slip into bad driving habits over time. So, why not take this as an opportunity to refresh your knowledge and make sure you remember all that you learned to pass your test?

You can do a mock test via the Safe Driving for Life website, or take the free road signs quiz put together by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

Inside the car

As the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accident (RoSPA) rightly points out, young children should never be left in a car alone, even when the engine is switched off.

It states that, although rare, there have been instances where children have died when left alone, either because of an electric window or a fire caused by matches left in the vehicle.
If your child is a little older and you need to leave them in the car for a short period of time, RoSPA has some advice:
  • Always remove the keys from the ignition, even if you plan to drive the car again very shortly. A child could start the car or a thief could jump in and drive off (there have been instances where this has happened).
  • Lock the steering wheel once the keys have been removed from the ignition as this will make the car harder to start for the child.
  • If you can, turn the wheels into the kerb so that it will be stopped by something if it starts to roll (Rule 252 in the Highway Code suggests this is what you should do if parking on a hill).
  • Leave the car in gear if parking on a hill. If you’re facing uphill, use a forward gear and turn the wheel away from the kerb. If you’re facing downhill, use reverse and turn the steering wheel into the kerb.
  • Make sure the car is free from dangerous items – including things like matches and lighters.
  • Always lock the car, even if you’re leaving it for just a minute. Doing this is more secure, plus it limits the risk of your child climbing in or out of the vehicle without you noticing.
  • If your child is old enough to understand, explain why they shouldn’t play with objects inside of the car like the handbrake.


Limiting in-car distractions

Let’s face it: young kids can be incredibly distracting during car journeys, not just when they’re asking ‘Are we there yet?’ every five minutes! Here are some tips that’ll help you keep your cool, stay focused and stay safe:
  • Set some ground rules before setting off – tell your kids that they mustn't shout, scream or fight during the journey, and that they must listen to you, the driver, when you give instructions.
  • Plan your route in advance to prevent getting lost or lengthy detours, making sure you factor in a few stops along the way.
  • Pack drinks and healthy snacks in case you or your kids get hungry or thirsty en-route.
  • Play some in-car games to make the journey fun – ‘I spy’ is a classic and a game the whole family (including the driver) can get involved in.
  • Load up the tablet with apps and films – these will keep the kids entertained for hours!

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